Clifton's Is Going To Stop Being A Cafeteria And Become A Food Hall

Diners pay for their meals in Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown L.A., in 2015. (Photo by Paul Narvaez/Flickr Creative Commons)

The cafeteria at Clifton's has been closed for two-and-a-half months, as we noted last week after Franklin Avenue pointed it out. Now, we know what's going to become of it.

Proprietor Andrew Meiran, who also oversees the Edison, confirmed that the cafeteria at Clifton's has been closed since mid-September, but he hopes to re-reopen it in the first few months of 2019 — after he transforms it into a high-end food hall.

Meiran says workers are busy right now, turning the cafeteria at Clifton's into the Exposition Marketplace, which will have seven different stations that offer salads, sandwiches, hot items and desserts. Each station in the marketplace will function like a mini-market or a deli with pre-packaged items and/or foods that you can buy for takeaway or eat on the premises.

Why another revamp only a few years after completing a splashy, nearly half-decade renovation?

"We ran up against a perception issue," Meiran says. He thinks part of the problem is the word "cafeteria."

Vintage tray and old-school white Jell-O at Clifton's Cafeteria, before it was revamped and reopened in 2015. (Photo by Marianne Muegenburg Cothern/Flickr Creative Commons)

"When people think of a cafeteria, they think institution. It's food in the pans and plopped on the plate. That isn't the way people contemporary like to eat. It created a weird dilemma for us from day one. We were too expensive and potentially going off the mark for some people. Then we weren't enough in terms of raising the bar for a whole group of other people. And that's kind of a no-win situation," he says.

He compares the upcoming iteration of Clifton's to luxe food halls like Eataly or Harrod's in London, although he emphasizes that the cost will not be like Harrod's.

Items will still be priced "within reason," according to Meiran, and focused on local, organic ingredients.

Each area of the marketplace will be distinct and will offer classic dishes alongside daily, weekly and seasonal specials. Yes, Clifton's will still serve its two most popular dishes, mac 'n cheese and turkey with stuffing. How could they not?

Meiran says that when Clifton's reopened, 85 percent of guests purchased one of those items, "regardless of what was on the menu elsewhere (fresh pasta, vegetarian dishes, other specials and sandwiches or sushi etc)."

He emphasizes that most of the bars at Clifton's are still open a few days a week. The Monarch Bar on the second floor, the Gothic Bar on the third floor and the the Pacific Seas on the fourth floor are open Wednesday through Saturday, while the Ballroom Bar on the third floor and the Treetops on the fourth floor are open Friday and Saturday.

You can also get some grab-and-go items from the Old Mill Café, right by the front entrance. Clifton's is open for private events and occasional special events, like a monthly brunch.

"People have taken a very, very close personal sort of ownership of Clifton's because of their memories and because of how long it's been here and how important it is to the Historic Core," Meiran says, "We're dedicated to what Clifton's always did, which was innovate and to be very nimble."

He hopes the revamp will keep the restaurant, opened in 1935, around for another 80-something years.

View of Clifton's Cafeteria during Airbnb Open LA - Day 2 on Nov. 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Airbnb)

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